A federal judge found the Prince George’s County Police Department promotion process discriminates against officers of color.
The ruling was handed down Thursday as part of an ongoing discrimination lawsuit filed against the department by some of its own officers.
In a 61-page decision, federal Judge Theodore Chuang said the county has acted in “deliberate indifference to the possible discrimination.”
“The county knew of these disparities. The county was getting regular reports from its own consultant about the fact that the promotional system was holding back officers of color, and decided to do nothing about it,” said Joanna Wasik, the attorney who is representing the officers.
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Although Prince George’s County is a predominant Black and Hispanic community, the police department’s leadership is majority white. Sixty-one percent of its lieutenants and 81% of its captains are white.
“I can’t have the impact if it’s only one or two of us,” said Joe Perez, the president of the Hispanic National Law Enforcement Association and a former Prince George’s County police captain, who is among the officers who filed the suit. “If there’s many of us in the ranks, then we can change this broken system.”
A county attorney said in a statement that the county and the police department are “committed to ensuring that their professionally developed promotion system continues to result in the promotion of the best-qualified officers — of all races, ethnic groups and backgrounds.”
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But quality and qualification of those being promoted was another concern Chuang had.
Chuang said the current promotion process can proceed, but before the next one, planned for October 2021, he wants to see that process revamped.
“One of the things the court focused on is that the current promotion system allows officers who've engaged in appalling acts of discrimination to get promoted,” Wasik said.
Like the internal affairs officer who had “Go F Yourself Obama” tags on his personal vehicle. Perez reported the officer to the chief.
“He was a sergeant when I complained and tried to get him transferred," Perez said. "He’s now a captain. And these are the people who are making decisions when a citizen files a complaint of brutality. How seriously is this guy going to take it?”